Payne: Obama’s CAFE fairy tale

Henry Payne/ The Michigan

We’ll agree to anything that’s 15 years out,” a highly-placed auto industry insider told me today about the fairy tale 54.5 mpg-by-2025 mandate for America’s auto fleet that Barack Obama and Big Auto execs will finally – officially – announce Friday in Washington.

The rule has no grounding in reality. An engineering rule of thumb is that gas engine efficiency improves by 1.5 percent a year (a gain that, in the cheap gas U.S. market, has traditionally gone to power upgrades rather than mpg improvements). The EPA’s rule will mandate that light trucks gain 3.5 percent a year and cars, 5 percent. Really.

And it mandates that the sun will come up in the west three days a week.

No matter, say Detroit automakers who resisted the edict (well, as much as government-owned entities could resist government mandates anyway) until this week – they can live with it. Why? Because it screws Detroit’s competition (hey, government ownership has its advantages).

The whys of that turnabout is an insight into how much the industry has learned to play the DC game since the imposition of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFE) 35 years ago.

Obama is on a mission to increase efficiency standards for ALL products to fight global warming – not just autos. The crucial difference between Big Bulb’s acceptance of light bulb standards (the 20 lumens limit effectively eliminates the incandescent bulb) and Big Auto’s resistance to the 55 mpg standard (effectively eliminating the gas engine)has been one of cost. Big Bulb can make more money on the incandescent’s CFL alternative. Big Auto can’t make money on the gas engine’s electric alternative.

So they poured millions into lobbying to “fix” the standards to their liking – and disadvantage the competition. And that’s changed everything.

The original, 1975 CAFE standard – demanding a 40 percent increase in fuel efficiency – discriminated against Detroit which relied on bigger vehicles for its profits. As a result, CAFE tilted the field to foreign competitors and the Big Three struggled – until discovering the SUV loophole in the ’90s.

This time, a wiser Detroit lobbying team has reacted to the feds’ 100 percent increase in fuel economy by carving out special rules for its truck-heavy lineup, devising easily-manipulated “foot prints” by which each vehicle is judged, and negotiating massive federal subsidies to help automakers build the electrics that will gain the industry credits against the pie-in-the-sky standard (and that Obama has guaranteed the federal government will buy up for its own fleet).

As a result, it’s the foreign makers that are screaming this time. Toyota, Mercedes, and VW have all balked at the blatant foreign discrimination.

“It’s clearly inequitable and favors manufacturers of full size trucks,” one European executive told “It could have an adverse effect on real world [gasoline] consumption by driving consumers to trucks.”

But they’ll come around. The loopholes in this bill are enormous. And automakers have 15 years to write more. “And if Romney gets elected, he’ll gut the rules anyway,” says my source.

“Remember the ZEV standard,” the source continues, referring to the inane California rule cooked up in 1990 that mandated that 10 percent of automakers’ cars sold in the state had to be “zero-emission- vehicles” by 2003 – or they COULD NOT SELL ANY VEHICLES at all.

This goal -like the 54.5 mpg number – was unworkable and “greens quickly realized that people would only hold on to their older cars when automakers were banned from selling new cars for not meeting the ZEV rule,” says the insider.

The new rule is just as daft. “This is a pipe dream,” the source continues. “There’s no science involved here. ”

Of course, EPA’s green pawns in the news media and environmental movement get a thrill up their leg at the prospect of 54.5 mpg cars. “(The deal) likely will change how drivers shop for, interact with, and think about cars,” bleats The Detroit Free Press’s Aaron Kessler. “It’s really about looking at where we’re headed as a country,” cheered a spokesperson for the lefty Union Of Concerned Scientists.

Nonsense. “Gas prices are the only thing that change consumer behavior,” my source says pointing to hybrid sales’ high water mark of 3 percent of the market in 2008 when prices hit $4-a-gallon.

In short, CAFE has become a play toy for utopians – and a tool for automakers to manipulate against the competition. Its goals are absurd, it’s language convoluted.

“In order to win the backing of the domestic automakers, the White House agreed to a review midway through the period, to ensure the new requirements are achievable, as well as granting credits that will make it easier for the companies to meet the revised standards. If the credit loopholes are too big and if overall fuel economy is not improved to the promised levels, an outcome that is definitely possible with the credit loophole, California could defect again, leaving the entire process back where it started,” reports TheTruthAboutCars.

Got that? No one else does either.

From The Detroit News

Main polar bear alarmist put on leave, investigated

You may have forgotten about it but one of the early stimuli that energized the recent wave of hysteria about the so-called “global warming” was a claimed observation of four dead polar bears floating on the sea after a thunderstorm in September 2004 – exactly when TRF was getting started.

The main relevant articles ultimately appeared in 2005 and 2006:

Potential effects of diminished sea ice on open-water swimming, mortality, and distribution of polar bears during fall in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea (2005)

Observations of mortality associated with extended open-water swimming by polar bears in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea (2006)

The authors of the 2006 article, Charles Monnett (lead author of both articles) and Jeffrey S. Gleason, have de facto claimed that 5/6 of a group of polar bears died in a 16-year period and it’s surely due to global warming and it’s gonna get worse.

As the media – see e.g. AP and CBS news – just figured out, Charles Monnett, employed by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation, and Enforcement, was put on leave until the verdict about the investigation of his “integrity issues”. Obama administration officials are behind the investigation: they confiscated Monnett’s hard drives and notebooks, among other possible proofs.

Gleason, the second author in both papers, has told the investigators that none of the polar bears in either article had anything real to do with global warming (and they haven’t even mentioned the term global warming) and Monnett has added this spin to his interpretations (which has surely sweetened his life until 2011, I add).

Polar bears have developed modern techniques to adapt to global warming.

As you may determine if you study some literature, Charles Monnett is the world’s main scientist behind the idea that polar bears are increasingly drowning because of global warming – something that added a couple of scenes to Al Gore’s movie (which was a part of the investigation as well), too. Until these days, he de facto controlled the U.S. Arctic Wildlife research and decided about $50 million of its funding (see the AP report).

Arctic sea ice as of yesterday, via The Cryosphere Today. It’s Summer and the ice is receding, reaching the minimum in mid September. Some polar bears may have chosen the pack ice for the Summer which makes it impossible – as the gap has grown – to reach e.g. North Asia. If they got stuck on a shrinking area of pack ice near the pole and if the sea ice went to zero, they would be in trouble but be sure it won’t happen in 2011.

He was told the charges. They are related to his polar bear research and chances are 50-50 that they can either demonstrate that this whole research has been fraudulent or the same thing holds for the “climate change” interpretations of it. See Where are all the drowning polar bears? at World Climate Report (2008) for more details why Monnett’s results never looked right.

It seems increasingly likely that the research backing the global warming doctrine is corrupt at every conceivable level. We can’t know what the final verdict of the investigation will be – but I am pleasantly surprised that the Obama administration dares to investigate at all when the target is a top doomsday-believing would-be defender of a climatic holy cow, I mean the holy polar bear.

Just a trivial point: many people, including myself, tended to think in the past that the polar bears live near the North Pole where the ice has been diminishing in recent 3 decades (and doing many other things before that) which would clearly affect them. If you have these tendencies, you should check the map of their habitat. Of course that the normal range is on the firm land, near the Arctic Circle, far enough from the pole, and the experienced animals probably know damn well that the pack ice and especially open sea increase the likelihood of drowning. Right now in the Summer, when the ice is still receding, they’re probably careful not to get too far from the land. (The minimum ice is achieved around mid September.)

Five days ago, media highlighted the observations that polar bears may swim up to 700 km without a pause.

For many reasons, I don’t really think that the polar bears are endangered or threatened. But if they were, I would be a support of actions to save them and my guess is that it couldn’t cost more than a billion of dollars (a fancy Mercedes for each polar bear would cost just about that). At any rate, it’s preposterous to use polar bears as an argument in the attempts to reduce the integrated GDP by trillions of dollars.

ATI Fellows Expose ‘The War on Natural Gas’

Thursday, July 28, 2011
Contact: Paul Chesser,

Who are the multi-million dollar foundations and activists, nonprofits, media groups and academics that are attacking the natural gas industry and its safe, effective hydraulic fracturing process? Who spreads myths and lies about a business that has created thousands of jobs and has delivered energy extracted from U.S. lands to millions of Americans, reducing our dependence on foreign countries?

In a report this week for Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Foundation, American Tradition Institute executive director Paul Chesser and research fellow Mark Newgent identify those who oppose natural gas development, and expose their financial incentives, their relationships to each other, and their misleading statements and outright lies about hydraulic fracturing (colloquially called “fracking”).

Read “The Great Frack Attack:

“Environmentalist groups and activists want you to believe that they — and by extension the land, water and air that we all treasure and want to protect — are endangered because so-called ‘big’ fossil-fuel companies allegedly have a huge advantage in spending on lobbying and messaging,” said Chesser, who is also a senior fellow for the Commonwealth Foundation. “Our report shows that ‘Big Green’ also plays a big money game — often built on lies and distortions, which unlike energy, are useless to the public and harmful to the issues debate.”

Among its revelations the report, titled “The Great Frack Attack: The War on Natural Gas,” exposes efforts by the Sandler-funded ProPublica, which to date has dedicated 120 articles to an assault on natural gas and hydraulic fracturing. Former subprime mortgage lenders Herb and Marion Sandler, who have joined George Soros in support of Center for American Progress and many other leftist groups, poured more than $9 million into ProPublica to help launch it on its mission. Herb Sandler serves as chairman of its board of directors.

Also examined in the report are the funding activities of the Heinz Endowments, overseen by liberal icon Teresa Heinz Kerry, which recently expanded its anti-gas funding dramatically. Among the Heinz grants were thousands of dollars for “outreach and organizing” and to “characterize pollution impacts” from drilling in the Marcellus Shale region. Another large Heinz grant went to a University of Pittsburgh public health center run by alarmist Conrad Volz, who left his position in April after several errors were found in a report where the natural gas industry was falsely accused of dumping carcinogenic agents into drinking water supplies.

The Oscar-nominated movie “Gasland,” activist groups Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future and PennEnvironment, and dozens of other national and state groups come under scrutiny in the report as well.

The 12-page expose is available for reading on the Commonwealth Foundation’s Web site ( ) .

For an interview with American Tradition Institute executive director Paul Chesser, call (202)670-2680 or email

Exasperated Alabama Coal Owner Tells the Feds – “I’m Just Quitting”

Source: The Blaze Blog

Ronnie Bryant was vastly outnumbered.

Leaning against a wall during a recent Birmingham, Alabama, public hearing, Bryant listened to an overflow crowd pepper federal officials with concerns about businesses polluting the drinking water and causing cases of cancer.

After two hours, Bryant—a coal mine owner from Jasper—had heard enough and, in a moment being described as “right out of Atlas Shrugged,” took his turn at the microphone:

“Nearly every day without fail…men stream to these [mining] operations looking for work in Walker County. They can’t pay their mortgage. They can’t pay their car notes. They can’t feed their families. They don’t have health insurance. And as I stand here today, I just…you know…what’s the use? I got a permit to open up an underground coal mine that would employ probably 125 people. They’d be paid wages from $50,000 to $150,000 a year. We would consume probably $50 million to $60 million in consumables a year, putting more men to work. And my only idea today is to go home. What’s the use? I see these guys—I see them with tears in their eyes—looking for work. And if there’s so much opposition to these guys making a living, I feel like there’s no need in me putting out the effort to provide work for them. So…basically what I’ve decided is not to open the mine. I’m just quitting. Thank you.”

The Blaze contacted Bryant, and he remains as resolute as he was at last week’s public hearing. To him, it’s just not worth the time, money, and regulatory hassle to open up a new mine—even one located in a remote area with less environmental impact.

“If they want to create jobs, provide health insurance, and increase revenue,” Bryant said in reference to the federal government, “they need to back down on the regulatory burden. It’s like pulling an iron ball with a chain. I’m not saying to make it go away—just the stuff that’s not pertinent or useful.”

Terry Douglas, who owns two mines in Jasper with Bryant, said it costs them about $250,000 per mine in permit fees alone and that paperwork and regulatory inspections are a constant presence (as well as an additional revenue strain). When asked about typical concerns surrounding coal mining—including companies skirting health and safety regulations—Douglas said it “doesn’t make sense” to let safety lapse and risk losing miners to illness or injury when it would only cost more to train new personnel.

“We take care of our equipment and take care of our people,” Douglas said. “The regulations make coal miners out to be criminals; but we’re not outlaws. Coal mining is an art. I have a civil engineering degree; Ronnie has a mining engineering degree. It’s not wildcat whiskey we’re making; this is drinking whiskey we got.”

Bryant pointed to less stringent environmental regulations in countries such as China, saying that the U.S. is falling behind even though it has abundant resources. “But you can’t get to them,” he said, adding that while there are concerns over dwindling wildlife populations, “people are becoming the endangered species.”

Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming, regional administrator for EPA’s Southeast Region, attended the Birmingham public hearing but could not be reached for comment.

Crop biotechnology still attracts opposition

The Scientific Alliance

Many farmers seem to like GM crops. Only 15 years after they were first commercialised, 148 million hectares were sown with biotech seeds around the world in 2010, a 10% increase over the previous year. According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (, 15.4 million individual farmers grew GM crops, over 90% of them in developing countries. This is not unexpected: agriculture has evolved over the centuries by farmers trying and adopting new technology if they see a benefit. Crop biotechnology is just one more step on the road, and certainly not the last.

But it continues to have its vocal critics, with Greenpeace still prominent among them. On 14 July, a GM wheat trial (modified to have a lower glycaemic index and a higher fibre content) run by CSIRO in Ginninderra near Canberra, was destroyed by a group of protestors using strimmers (see the Canberra Times – GM crop destroyed). The finely-tuned Greenpeace propaganda machine was once again organised to gain maximum impact. Both the women who destroyed the crop wore full protective clothing including gloves, helmets and face masks, of the sort used when handling hazardous material. Just one problem: they were dealing with a perfectly harmless plot of young wheat plants, which represented no risk to them whatsoever. That they were grown under cover was merely part of the very cautious approach taken to the development and trialling of GM crops.

The newspaper report continues “Greenpeace have confirmed at least two women scaled the fence, including one mother, Heather McCabe, who is concerned about her family’s health. ‘This GM wheat should never have left the lab,’ said Ms McCabe.
‘I’m sick of being treated like a dumb Mum who doesn’t understand the science. As far as I’m concerned, my family’s health is too important. GM wheat is not safe, and if the Government can’t protect the safety of my family, then I will…‘We had no choice but to take action to bring an end to this experiment,’ said Greenpeace Food campaigner Laura Kelly in a release this morning. ’This is about the protection of our health, the protection of our environment and the protection of our daily bread.’ ”

All scary stuff, but with no basis in fact. And they seem to be swimming against the tide. The Canberra Times ran an opinion survey on the same page and, of 1,354 respondents, 78.7% were opposed, 9% unsure and just 12.3% supportive of this action. But this is in a country where some GM crops are already grown and the government has generally taken a fairly rational approach to approvals. What about Europe, where opposition has been at its strongest?

On 9 July, a group of masked activists got two for the price of one: they destroyed a plot of wheat modified to resist fungal diseases and a field of potatoes engineered to produce an amino acid polymer (cyanophycin) which could be used to make plastics on the same site near Rostock (see the story reported in Science – Anti-GM Attack Destroys German Test Plots). In this case, the vandals remained anonymous and were obviously quite determined; they were reported to have overpowered a security guard to gain access.

On 11 July, a similar attack occurred further south, near Magdeburg. A larger group of a dozen activists destroyed fields of potatoes, wheat and maize at a demonstration garden, after threatening guards with a pepper spray and bats (Activists raid GM crop sites in Germany). But, despite condemnation from all mainstream political parties except the Greens, there is likely to be less public outrage in Germany, a country where many people are deeply suspicious of crop biotechnology. Such attacks are similar to those undertaken by the ‘volunteer reapers’ in France, with José Bové (‘farmer’ and MEP) prominent among them. And not only France; in May a field of GM potatoes was destroyed in Belgium, near Ghent, celebrated by Indymedia as 400 peasants, clowns and reapers liberate Belgian GM potato field.

This anti-biotech activity has firm roots in the broader environmentalist and anti-globalisation movements. For most of the public, crop biotechnology is generally now a non-issue, and greater availability of GM crops – without taking away the critical element of choice – would be unlikely to cause a real furore in many countries, except amongst the activist minority. But that relies on governments taking the scientific advice of EFSA and allowing more approvals.

In an attempt to break the current logjam, the European Parliament has, somewhat counter-intuitively, just voted to allow Member States to ban cultivation of approved GM crops on their soil for a whole range of reasons which “may be based on grounds relating to environmental or other legitimate factors such as socio-economic impacts” and are not scientific or safety issues (see GM crops: EU parliament backs national bans).

The perhaps somewhat naive idea is that countries which currently routinely vote against GM crop approvals would go with the EFSA recommendation if they knew they could still ban their use on their own soil. Many MEPs, on the other hand, are more likely to see this as a victory for a more general anti-GM stance. Up till now, a number of countries have put in place national bans of doubtful legality, and the latest vote would make outright bans easier. France, for example, to the consternation of quite a number of its farmers, slapped a ban on cultivation of GM maize in February 2008, after farmers north of the Pyrenees had begun to follow the example of those in Spain, and seemed set to expand cultivation further. But a recent EU court opinion suggests that this was actually an illegal act (see EU court deals blow to French-led anti-GM crops lobby).

How this situation will evolve is anyone’s guess, but Europe cannot pretend to be a GM-free island. The livestock industry relies heavily on imports of GM soy to provide affordable meat, significant quantities of GM maize are grown in Spain, and the products of GM micro-organisms are widely used in food processing. Now that the question of food security and affordability has finally come back to the top of the agenda, there should be a greater sense of realism among politicians that a utopian vision of localised organic farming is a mirage except for a privileged few who can afford to indulge themselves.

Now is surely the time for our elected representatives to bite the bullet, resist the strident calls of the anti-biotech lobby and make rational decisions for benefit of society, farmers and the international community. If not, then they simply accelerate Europe’s marginalisation in the world.

See newslatter

Clean Energy Future advert: count the lies

Clean Energy Australia Propaganda
Clean Energy Future advert: count the lies

Government propaganda at its very worst. Let’s go through it:

Lie Number 1: Carbon Pollution. It isn’t carbon and it isn’t pollution.

Lie Number 2: The majority of scientists agree that climate change is a result of human activity. A manufactured consensus from a politicised organisation (the IPCC) which was formed to find evidence of a pre-conceived conclusion. How much climate change is actually a result of human activity? We don’t know.

Lie Number 3: We can avoid the worst impacts by reducing “pollution”. No we can’t. The carbon tax will do nothing to change the climate.

Lie Number 4: Climate change is predicted to lead to further rises in temperature, rises in sea levels and some extreme weather events becoming more common, making life more difficult. Temperatures and sea levels have been rising slowly for centuries, without any help from man-made emissions. There are no confirmed links to more extreme weather events despite what the media tries to tell you.

Lie Number 5: Countries around the world are already taking action [lists China, USA, India and Europe]. No, they are not. China’s emissions will rise for the foreseeable future despite a few token environmental gestures, India’s carbon tax is $1/tonne, the USA has backed away from any federal climate action leaving just the tiny RGGI, and Europe is a hopeless economic basket case on the verge of collapse, thanks in part to a crippling ETS mired in fraud and corruption.

Lie Number 6: These clean energy sources [solar, wind, tidal and geothermal] are sustainable, renewable, their supply cannot be disrupted by events elsewhere, and they don’t contribute to pollution. None of those energy sources can replace fossil fuels for base-load electricity generation. And wind and solar are “disrupted” when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. Tidal power is non-existent in Australia, and geothermal is so tiny as to be not even worth mentioning. The manufacture of solar panels and rare earth magnets for wind turbines releases millions of tonnes of real pollution into the environment.

Lie Number 7: Developing these new industries means developing new jobs. False. Every fake green job costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and takes away on average 2 – 4 real jobs. Subsidising inefficient, unreliable and expensive alternative energy is like burning $100 bills. The market will decide when “alternative” energy becomes competitive, not the government.

Lie Number 8: Meeting the challenge of climate change means being responsible, staying competitive and Australia continuing to prosper. A unilateral carbon tax does nothing for climate change, it is totally irresponsible, will make Australia less competitive compared to its trading partners, and will damage the economy for no benefit.

Wow. Eight whoppers in just over a minute. Pretty impressive.

EPA’s Pending Ozone Decision Could Cause 7 Million Job Losses by 2020

Link to Inhofe EPW Press Blog

Within days, the Obama EPA is expected to announce their decision to tighten the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone.

In so doing, EPA is essentially changing the definition of clean air. The practical effect is that businesses and states will have to drastically curtail their development plans in order to meet the new standards. In some cases, in areas that cannot meet the requirements, development will grind to a halt.

This isn’t mere hyperbole: EPA estimates that this rule could cost as much as $90 billion annually, making it the most expensive regulation ever proposed.

Not only will the rule break records for costs – and this will significantly raise the price of energy for all Americans – by EPA’s own projections, it could put 650 additional counties into the category of “non-attainment,” which is the equivalent of posting a “closed for business” sign on communities. Affected counties will suffer from severe EPA-imposed restrictions on job creation and business expansion, including large numbers of plant closures. The rule has been projected to result in as many as 7 million lost jobs by 2020, with an estimated decline in GDP of close to 4 percent.

With at least fifteen counties in Oklahoma facing this threat – Adair, Caddo, Canadian, Cherokee, Cleveland, Creek, Dewey, Kay, Mayes, McClain, Oklahoma, Ottawa, Pittsburg, Sequoyah, and Tulsa – the state could lose 177,000 jobs by 2020. Oklahoma’s two largest newspapers have weighed in with editorials expressing their concerns about the impacts of the proposed rule.

There is no doubt that this rule’s devastating consequences for our economy have caused the final promulgation of the ozone reconsideration to be delayed not once, but twice over the past two years by the Obama Administration.

Getting the Facts Straight

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has repeatedly said that the Agency is legally bound to tighten ozone standards, on the grounds that the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) created by the Clean Air Act (CAA) supports it.

But this is not case: this proposal comes on the heels of the revised 2008 ozone standard, which was lowered significantly from 84 parts per billion (ppb) to 75 ppb. The CAA only requires a NAAQS revision “at least” every five years, so EPA is under no obligation currently to revise the standard. Furthermore, the CAA is very clear that EPA is not bound by CASAC’s recommendations.

However, the CAA does require that EPA review the best available science every five years. Yet, EPA’s proposal is based on the same scientific and technical record used in the 2008 ozone review, and the Agency has even conceded that it is not relying on any new ozone studies published since the science assessment supporting the 2008 review was completed in 2006. This means that EPA is using scientific studies that are at least five years old, clearly not relying on the “latest scientific knowledge,” which the CAA requires. Not only does EPA have no compelling science to justify tightening the ozone NAAQS, the Agency has repeatedly discounted or ignored studies reporting no significant association between current levels of ozone and asthma exacerbation. EPA has also at times, discounted multiple no-effect studies to rely instead on single studies showing an effect.

The Bottom Line

EPA’s rulemaking process paints a picture of an Agency bent on creating needless economic pain, destroying jobs and stunting economic growth at a time when our nation is working to recover from a jobless recession. And ozone is just the beginning: new standards for industrial boilers, Portland Cement plants, and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the recently released Transport rule are all part of the Obama EPA’s regulatory “train wreck” that will wreak havoc on our economy. Instead of going through with this rule, EPA should immediately recognize that it significantly harms the very people EPA so vehemently claims to protect, especially the poor and elderly, who can little afford higher energy costs, and those whose jobs and livelihoods will be unnecessarily eliminated.

A New Study Takes The Wind Out Of Wind Energy

Robert Bryce, Forbes 07.19.11, 05:00 PM EDT

Reality has overtaken green hope.

Facts are pesky things. And they’re particularly pesky when it comes to the myths about the wind energy business.

For years, it’s been an article of faith among advocates of renewables that increased use of wind energy can provide a cost-effective method of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The reality: wind energy’s carbon dioxide-cutting benefits are vastly overstated. Furthermore, if wind energy does help reduce carbon emissions, those reductions are too expensive to be used on any kind of scale.

Those are the findings of an exhaustive new study, released today, by Bentek Energy, a Colorado-based energy analytics firm. Rather than rely on computer models that use theoretical emissions data, the authors of the study, Porter Bennett and Brannin McBee, analyzed actual emissions data from electric generation plants located in four regions: the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Bonneville Power Administration, California Independent System Operator, and the Midwest Independent System Operator. Those four system operators serve about 110 million customers, or about one-third of the U.S. population.

Bennett and McBee looked at more than 300,000 hourly records from 2007 through 2009. Their results show that the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and other wind boosters have vastly overstated wind’s ability to cut sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide.
Indeed, the study found that in some regions of the country, like California, using wind energy doesn’t reduce sulfur dioxide emissions at all. But the most important conclusion from the study is that wind energy is not “a cost-effective solution for reducing carbon dioxide if carbon is valued at less than $33 per ton.” With the U.S. economy still in recession and unemployment numbers near record levels, Congress cannot, will not, attempt to impose a carbon tax, no matter how small.
AWEA claims that every megawatt-hour of electricity produced by wind turbines cuts carbon dioxide emissions by 0.8 tons. But the Bentek study shows that in California, a state that relies heavily on natural gas-fired generation, the carbon dioxide reduction from wind energy was just 0.3 tons of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour. Further, the study found that in the area served by the Bonneville Power Administration, which uses a large amount of hydropower, the carbon dioxde reduction was just 0.1 ton of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour.

To be clear, the Bentek study found that in the region served by the Midwest Independent System Operator, which relies heavily on coal-fired generation, the carbon dioxide reduction benefits of wind are actually greater (1.0 ton of carbon saved) than what AWEA claims. But when it came to reductions in sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide in the Midwest, Bentek found that, again, the claims made by AWEA were overstated.
What about Texas, the state that has some 10,000 megawatts of installed wind generation capacity, more than any other state? Again, the Bentek study found that AWEA’s claims were exaggerated. Texas relies heavily on natural gas-fired generation. Therefore, when wind gets deployed within the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Bentek found that it cuts sulfur dioxide emissions by 1.2 pounds per megawatt-hour, far less than the 5.7 pounds claimed by AWEA. Similarly, the reduction in nitrous oxide was 0.7 pounds rather than AWEA’s 2.3 pounds, and carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by 0.5 tons per megawatt-hour, not the 0.8 tons claimed by AWEA.

The Bentek report provides yet more bad news for the subsidy-dependent wind business, which is already on its heels. Low natural gas prices, the economic downturn, and uncertainty about the continuation of federal subsidies have left the wind industry in tatters. In 2010, total U.S. wind generation capacity grew by 5,100 megawatts, about half as much capacity as was added in 2009. During the first quarter this year, new wind installations totaled just 1,100 megawatts, indicating that this year will likely be even worse than 2010.

The wind industry’s prospects are so bad that T. Boone Pickens, long one of the sector’s loudest advocates, has given up on the U.S. market. Pickens, the billionaire self-promoter who famously placed an order for some $2 billion worth of wind turbines back in 2008, is now trying to find a home for those turbines in Canada.

In addition, the wind industry faces increasingly vocal opposition in numerous countries around the world. The European Platform Against Windfarms now has 485 signatory organizations from 22 European countries. In the UK, where fights are raging against industrial wind projects in Wales, Scotland, and elsewhere, some 250 anti-wind groups have been formed. In Canada, the province of Ontario alone has more than 50 anti-wind groups. The U.S. has about 170 anti-wind groups.
While many factors are hurting the wind industry, the Bentek report, which was released today, undercuts the sector’s primary reason for existing. The Global Wind Energy Council, one of the industry’s main lobby groups, claims that reducing the amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere “is the most important environmental benefit from wind power generation.” For its part, the American Wind Energy Association insists that the wind business “could avoid 825 million tons of carbon dioxide annually by 2030.”

But if wind energy doesn’t significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions, then critics can easily challenge the industry’s hefty subsidies, which include the federal production tax credit of $0.022 for each kilowatt-hour of electricity. That amounts to a subsidy of $6.44 per million BTU of energy produced. For comparison, in 2008, the Energy Information Administration reported that subsidies to the oil and gas sector totaled $1.9 billion per year, or about $0.03 per million BTU of energy produced. In other words, subsidies to the wind sector are more than 200 times as great as those given to the oil and gas sector on the basis of per-unit-of-energy produced.

If those fat subsidies go away, then the U.S. wind sector will be stopped dead in its tracks. And for consumers, that should be welcome news.

The wind energy business is the electric sector’s equivalent of the corn ethanol scam: it’s an over-subsidized industry that depends wholly on taxpayer dollars to remain solvent while providing an inferior product to consumers that does little, if anything, to reduce our need for hydrocarbons or cut carbon dioxide emissions. The latest Bentek study should be required reading for policymakers. It’s a much-needed reminder of how the pesky facts about wind energy have been obscured by the tsunami of hype about green energy.

Robert Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His fourth book, Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Futurewas recently issued in paperback.

Pa. wind turbines deadly to bats, costly to farmers

Sunday, July 17, 2011
By Erich Schwartzel, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Larry Roberts/Post-GazetteSuzanne B. McLaren, the collection manager in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s section of mammals, extends the wing of an approximately 3-inch specimen of a Seminole bat, rare in Pennsylvania, which was reportedly killed in the vicinity of a wind turbine.The butterfly effect suggests the flapping of a tiny insect’s wings in Africa can lead to a tornado in Kansas.

Call this the bat effect: A bat killed by a wind turbine in Somerset can lead to higher tomato prices at the Wichita farmers market.

Bats are something of a one-species stimulus program for farmers, every year gobbling up millions of bugs that could ruin a harvest. But the same biology that allows the winged creatures to sweep the night sky for fine dining also has made them susceptible to one of Pennsylvania’s fastest-growing energy tools.

The 420 wind turbines now in use across Pennsylvania killed more than 10,000 bats last year — mostly in the late summer months, according to the state Game Commission. That’s an average of 25 bats per turbine per year, and the Nature Conservancy predicts as many as 2,900 turbines will be set up across the state by 2030.

This is a bad time to be a bat.

It may seem like a good thing to those who fear the flying mammals, but the wind farm mortality rate is an acute example of how harnessing natural energy can lead to disruptions in the circle of life — and the cycle of business. This chain of events mixes biology and economics: Bat populations go down, bug populations go up and farmers are left with the bill for more pesticide and crops (which accounts for those pricey tomatoes in Kansas).

Wind industry executives are shelling out millions of dollars on possible solutions that don’t ruin their bottom line, even as wind farms in the area are collaborating with the state Game Commission to work carcass-combing into daily operations.

“If you look at a map and see where the mountains are, everything funnels through Somerset,” said Tracey Librandi Mumma, the wildlife biologist who led the March commission report on bird and bat mortality. “If I’m out driving … I wonder, ‘How many are being killed at that one?’ ”

Bats are nature’s pesticide, consuming as many as 500 insects in one hour, or nearly 3,000 insects in one night, said Miguel Saviroff, the agricultural financial manager at the Penn State Cooperative Extension in Somerset County.

“A colony of just 100 little brown bats may consume a quarter of a million mosquitoes and other small insects in a night,” he said. “That benefits neighbors and reduces the insect problem with crops.”

If one turbine kills 25 bats in a year, that means one turbine accounted for about 17 million uneaten bugs in 2010.

Bats save farmers a lot of money: About $74 per acre, according to an April report in Science magazine that calculated the economic value of bats on a county-by-county basis.

In Allegheny County, bats save farmers an estimated $642,986 in a year. That’s nothing compared with more agricultural counties in the region such as Somerset ($6.7 million saved), Washington ($5.5 million) or Westmoreland ($6.1 million).

Lancaster County? You owe bats $22 million.

In all of Pennsylvania, bats saved farmers $277.9 million in estimated avoided costs.

Initially, the “Economic Importance of Bats in Agriculture” article was meant to attract attention to the white-nose fungus virus that is wiping out entire colonies of bats across the country.

“We were getting a lot of questions about why we should care about white-nose syndrome,” said author Justin Boyles, a post-doctoral fellow in bat research at the University of Tennessee. “Really, it’s the economic impact that makes people listen.”

The white-nose syndrome is compounding the wind turbine problems, having killed more than a million bats in the northeastern United States since 2006. It surfaced in Pennsylvania in 2008 and has killed thousands of in-state bats.

Meanwhile, the same creatures that save Pennsylvania farmers millions of dollars each year are also costing energy companies some big bucks as they try to stave off a mass execution beneath the blades.

Technology is being developed on sound generators that would deter the creatures from getting too close with a high-pitched noise only heard by bats. Some studies suggest that a slowdown in blade speed would reduce mortality.

But new technology is expensive and a blade slowdown would reduce the number of megawatts produced.

“All these options cost money,” said Ms. Librandi Mumma, and it can be a tough sell to the private industry handing over the information that helps in the research. “You don’t want to penalize the hand that’s giving you the data.”

Companies that have signed a Game Commission cooperation agreement must foot the bill for the commission’s pre-construction reconnaissance and post-construction monitoring. The cost of the process varies, but the research can last several months and involve extensive habitat monitoring.

Under the agreement, each site conducts two years of mortality monitoring, sending a lucky employee out every day from April to November to comb the six meters around each turbine for carcasses. The employees are tested to see “how good they are at finding dead things,” said Ms. Librandi Mumma.

“We got a dead snake once, because it was on the road and they were just collecting everything dead,” she said. “It wasn’t because the wind turbine killed it. The guy was just being thorough.”

Some retrievers aren’t so good.

“The average person finds 30 percent of the carcasses that are under a turbine,” said Ms. Librandi Mumma, so the commission has come up with an algorithm that accounts for the missing bodies.

Agents will leave a carcass on the ground and note how long it takes to disappear — this provides some insight on how many carcasses are unaccounted for because of living animals that have a taste for decomposing flesh.

Some wind companies with Pennsylvania operations have already seen seven-figure expenses on account of the bat problem.

NextEra Energy Resources, which operates the Somerset wind farms visible from the Pennsylvania Turnpike, has five active sites in Pennsylvania but did not participate in the Game Commission study.

The company monitors its mortality rates in house and funds outside research to reduce bird and bat deaths at its sites, said Skelly Holmbeck, environmental business manager at the Juno Beach, Fla.-based firm.

The funding program involving nine different research facilities is “in the millions overall,” she said.

Migratory research that precedes any construction can employ bird watchers, nets or tape recorders designed to read the local ecosystem.

PPL Renewable Energy LLC of Allentown had planned on installing four turbines at its Lancaster County wind farm, but went with only two after sensitive avian populations were found nearby.

“There were design aspects that we elected not to use,” said spokeswoman Mimi Mylin. “Some construction sites use lattice towers, but those can become roosting sites” for birds.

It’s not just bats that are dying around wind turbines. An estimated 1,680 birds were killed by turbines last year, according to the state Game Commission report.

The disparity in mortality stems from biology. Birds typically crash into the blade and die from blunt force trauma, while bats suffer from a condition called barotrauma. It’s the bat equivalent of the “bends” that scuba divers can suffer if they surface too quickly.

The rapid drop in air pressure around the blades causes the bats’ lungs to burst, and they collapse with no ostensible lacerations or scars on the body.

“They just look like they’re sleeping,” said Ms. Librandi Mumma.

Bats must fly very close to the blades for their lungs to burst, and some researchers say the lights around the turbines might attract insects, which in turn attract bats.

Barotrauma in bats was only discovered in 2008, when a Canadian biologist thought to dissect one of the unblemished carcasses turning up at wind farms across North America.

“It was an ‘a-ha’ moment,” said Ms. Librandi Mumma.

The turbine problem has yielded some other, unexpected contributions to bat research.

One carcass hunter in central Pennsylvania found a Seminole bat felled by barotrauma under the blades. Seminole bats live in the southeastern United States and rarely show up in Pennsylvania.

“It’s like a double-edged sword,” said Ms. Librandi Mumma. “You’re excited because it’s a new bat, but it’s a dead one.”

The Seminole specimen was kept on dry ice in a small styrofoam container by a commission employee and handed over to Suzanne McLaren, the collection manager at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s research center in East Liberty. They met in the Ligonier Diamond town square — home to a postcard-perfect gazebo and lots of sunlight — for the transfer.

The bat, which may have traveled here from as far as Florida, found its final resting place in a freezer in East Liberty.

Read more:

Nanny Steven Chu: “We Are Taking Away a Choice that Lets You Waste Your Own Money!”

By Paul Gregory

Steven Chu was a co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997. That he developed methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light does not mean he understands economics, consumer choice, or politics. A Nobel Prize does not even guarantee common sense. Often it guarantees the opposite.

In a Friday conference call with reporters, Chu argued against a House bill that would repeal a 2007 federal law outlawing incandescent bulbs. Many Americans object to being told that must buy the fluorescent, halogen, and LED bulbs starting in January of 2012 as dictated by federal law.

Chu argued the more-efficient bulbs mandated by Congress save consumers money over the bulb’s life even though the up-front price is higher. Chu defended Congress’s right to dictate what kind of light bulb Americans buy because:

“We are taking away a choice that continues to let people waste their own money.”

There are many things that cost more up front and “pay for themselves” in terms of longer life or lower operating costs. Think of insulation which costs a bundle but lowers utility bills, or electric cars that costs $10,000 more but save on gas. So far, we have allowed the people themselves to decide: More money now, but less later? Or: Less money now and more later? That is my or your decision.

The choice of light bulb is a classic problem of economic choice over time. Consumers, who place a high value on money now, do not buy insulation, electric cars, or fluorescent lights. We have different time preferences. People who pass on insulation, electric cars and fluorescent light bulbs are by no means wasting their money. They are making choices that are perfectly rational for them.

This basic point of economics escapes Nobel laureate Chu.

Which light bulb is better for you is not an easy calculation. The compact fluorescent costs about six times more and contains hazardous mercury, but lasts six times longer and saves energy. There are also matters of taste and aesthetics. Some will find the new light bulb shape ugly. Others will not like the light it emits, but there will no longer be any choice. Just like we lost Freon in 1995, we will lose Edison’s light bulb in 2012.

Chu says the state should make the choice of light bulbs for you, but why should he stop there? Why not insulation or which car to buy?

Welcome to the Nanny state.